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The Volkswagen Polo

It is scarcely believable that the Volkswagen Polo is over 40 years old... but it really is!

Launched in 1975 just after its bigger Golf sibling, little did Volkswagen know that the Polo would prove to be an equally resounding success in the European market.

Its reputation for steadfast reliability, good quality and user-friendliness, as well as its ability to modernise over time to meet consumer's changing needs, has helped the Polo withstand the test of time for over 40 years.

For this reason, very few rivals can claim to hold the iconic status that the Polo enjoys. The modern Polo is virtually unrecognisable compared to its 1970s ancestor. Still, its ability to maintain its compact supermini size while offering excellent build quality and a slightly luxurious air means that it is always at the top of the shopping list.

Let's look at the Polo in more detail, see why it is so successful, and why you should consider one.

Why should I buy one?

When you buy a Polo you are assured of good quality, dependability, and aspirational premium feel that only a German car brings.

The conservative styling might not prove to be the most exciting choice for buyers who want to make a statement, but there is no denying that it is a very good looking car. With its classy and understated profile, the Polo is undoubtedly a choice for grown-ups. Still, in fairness, VW has acted on feedback about the Polo's slightly dull reputation and has offered some brighter interior options and more colourful touches to give it a bit of a lift.

A new model was launched in 2017, meaning that the Polo is now in its sixth generation. It is already showing signs of being just as popular as its predecessors, with strong residual values helping dealers provide attractive PCP and lease offers.

It is by no means a cheap car to buy when you look at the prices of its peers, with both its new and used values nudging the top of its market sector. Still, in return, the Polo suffers lower depreciation than most of its rivals, making it a sensible purchase, either new or used. You might be paying out more at the start, but you should also retain more value when it's time to change.

A significant part of the Polo's appeal across the market is that there is one to suit almost every buyer's needs, from the fuel-sipping BlueMotion with its aerodynamic tweaks to the sporty 200bhp GTI, which gives a nod to its iconic Golf GTI big brother.

Volkswagen has recently stopped sales of the slower-selling three-door models, instead throwing its weight behind the more practical five-door version. It ensures that the Polo can make the most of its spacious interior and offer a genuine small family car to the market.

You will be surprised at how much space there is inside the Polo, making it feel like a much bigger car from the inside while retaining the compact dimensions outside, making it easy to drive and park.

Despite its diminutive size, there is no compromise on safety because the Polo achieved a full five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test thanks to its range of airbags and standard ABS and ESP systems. The Polo gained 96% for adult occupant safety and 85% for child occupants, which is an excellent result for a car its size.

The driving experience is what you would expect of a well built German car - it is solid, predictable and comfortable. Everything feels well made and pleasant to touch, and the seats are comfortable. The cabin is roomy, with plenty of space in the front especially.

What engines and trim levels are available?

Engine options

Looking first at engine choices, the Polo makes excellent use of the VW group's flexible 1.0 three-cylinder engine. These engines have so far proved to be reliable and surprisingly frugal and lend themselves to a choice of power outputs depending on the buyer's requirements.

The entry-level version offers 80bhp, which will hold its own around town but will perhaps feel a little breathless on open roads, with its 0-62mph time of 14.9 seconds.

The next version up adds a turbo to the same engine, and this makes a world of difference as it offers 95bhp and dropping the 0-62 time by almost a third, at 10.8 seconds. This makes it more usable and more reassuring for overtakes and other times when you need to build up speed quickly but still returns up to a claimed 51.4 miles per gallon, slightly more than the slower model's 51.2 mpg, so it feels like an all-round better choice.

The most powerful version of the 1.0 brings 115bhp and a 0-62 time of 9.5 seconds. For those petrolheads among us, the DSG-only GTI offers a 2-litre TSI unit boasting 200bhp, achieving 62mph in just 6.7 seconds and endless amusement in the process.

Volkswagen also offers a 1.6 TDI Diesel version of the Polo for those who fancy a bit more torque from a Diesel engine or who need the improved fuel economy, offering up to 57.6 mpg from its 95bhp engine. However, the Diesels are more expensive, both new and used, and owners would need to drive many miles to offset the car's extra cost and the Diesel.

All things considered, the petrol models will make better sense for most drivers.


Trim levels

Turning to trim levels, the Polo range's entry-level model is the S, which comes with kit including air conditioning, electric windows, DAB CD Player, ISOFIX points.

The SE (pictured to the right) adds extras, including alloy wheels, electric rear windows and heated electric mirrors. The more luxurious SEL brings sat-nav, parking sensors and sports seats, and the R-line takes a few sportier styling cues from its bigger sibling, the Golf R.

And of course, not forgetting the GTI, which brings all the toys you would expect from the sporty version, including sports seats, larger alloy wheels and GTI styling. Also, keep an eye out for special editions, including the Beats edition and the Match, which give you extra goodies and various styling touches.

What should I look for?

The Polo is a popular car, and there should be many choices out there on the used market, so you can afford to take your time looking for the right one.

Don't expect a bargain on the used market because they hold their value very well. Therefore you should be suspicious if you find one that is noticeably cheaper than other similar versions because it could be hiding something in its history.

The service history is vital on the Polo, and you should check your prospective purchase to make sure it has been serviced regularly and that the cambelt has been replaced on time.

Keep an eye out for scuffs and scrapes on the bodywork because Polos are often used as city runabouts. Otherwise, the Polo is very well built and should prove to be a very reliable and pleasurable addition to your driveway.